We thank all who make possible this radio broadcast corresponding to the V Domingo de Cuaresma, which is the Sunday before Easter. Indeed, next Sunday, March 28, Holy Week begins, the most important for Christians, because in it we commemorate annually the fundamental mysteries of our faith: the Passion, Death and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Father Ariel Suárez Jáuregui, parish priest of the Church Our Lady of Charity and Basilica Minor, comments on today’s liturgy.
Father Ariel Suarez: Before God we ask forgiveness for our sins, for the evil we did or thought, for the poor witness of faith we have given to others, and for the good we cease to do. We say, “You who love us so much, Lord, have mercy. You who have given your life for us, Christ have mercy. You who invite us to live in love, Lord have mercy.
Today’s Gospel in all the Catholic churches of the world prepares our hearts to properly celebrate Holy Week and to live as true Christians throughout all weeks of the year; it is taken from chapter 12 of St. John, verses 20 to 33, we listened carefully:
Father Ariel Suarez: Let me comment with you three puntics from the gospel we have just heard. First point, “we want to see Jesus.” This phrase appears in today’s Gospel on the mouths of Greeks who have approached Jerusalem for the Jewish holidays of Passover. They are not of the Jewish people, who were the people chosen by God in the Old Testament to make themselves known to all peoples, but they are sympathizers of the Jewish religion, of the spirituality and morality of the Jews, who recognize higher and higher than other peoples. They have entered the temple esplanade, and at a certain point they reach a place where there are thirteen columns with an inscription in Greek that forbids passage to non-Jews, even with the threat of death for those who fail to comply with that standard. Therefore, it was a way of telling the heathen, who did not belong to the Jewish people: “You cannot enter the holy place, to the most holy place, you are forbidden to access the innermost and deepest of God.” But these Greeks of our Gospel, who represent us, have somehow discovered that the true holy place, the true temple of God, the true area in which men discover who and how God is, is the person of Jesus. Hence they express a deep desire: “we want to see Jesus”. This means: “Only by seeing Jesus do we see God do we enter into the realm of God, in the sanctuary; only by seeing Jesus do we discover the true face of God, god’s way of being, his style, his way of being present in the world.”
Today too, we ask ourselves honestly: “Do I want to see Jesus? How do I want to see him? Because seeing a person is linked to the relationship we want or have with them. Can we have and be content with a shallow view, or can we want a deep-looking look? Let’s take an example. Let’s imagine ourselves in a square and see a young man walking towards us. We’re all seeing him, but for most he’s a walking stranger. On the other hand, if next to us is the young man’s mother, wife or girlfriend, when he approaches, she sees much more than what we see. She sees a unique, special, very loved person, someone who has changed her life.
The Christian, if he wants to be such, must have this desire to see Jesus. To see him as a unique, special person, the most loved, who can change our lives radically and make her a full and happy life. This is also what we express today: “We want to see Jesus, we want to see him like this, in his intimacy and depth”.
Second point: “the hour of Jesus”. We are surprised by Jesus’ response to the Greeks’ question. Anyone would have expected something like, “bring them here or we’ll see them since they want to meet me.” Instead, Jesus begins by talking about his time and says, “The time has come for the son of man to be glorified.” At the weddings of Cana, John, chapter 2, Jesus tells his mother that his time has not come, and at another time of the same Gospel, John, chapter 7, we are told that they tried to take him prisoner, but no one laid his hands on him because his time had not yet come. Jesus’ hour finally comes in Holy Week. It’s time for your surrender of the cross. And why do you say it’s time to be glorified? How can one speak of glory when contemplating a crucified one? Weren’t the moments when many followed Him, applauded Him, performed miracles, and all spoke well of Him were rather glorious? No, that is the worldly glory, the glory of the world that men aspire to when they are worldly. The glory of God is when Jesus can truly show who God is and God is love. When Jesus can show how much He loves God, that is the glorious moment. The glory of God is when He shows how much God loves mankind. Jesus has been revealing throughout his life that love of God, but now, in his offering of life on the cross he carries that love to fullness, without the possibility of misinterpretations or ambiguities. And so it truly responds to the desire of the Greeks and us. You only see God, you only know God in depth when we are reached by his infinite love of the cross.
Third point: “the image of the grain of wheat”. Jesus, as a good pedagoguus, delves into the explanation of his hour with a comparison: “If the grain of wheat fallen to the ground does not die, it does not produce fruit and is left alone, but if it dies and it is an apparent death, it produces much fruit. This image tells us what happens to a seed, when placed on earth disappears, seems to die, but actually explodes the fullness of life. Jesus, with the image of the grain of wheat, has given us a synthesis of his life, his death and his resurrection, but at the same time, He offers us that same life to be our life, the life of his followers and friends, the life of a Christian. In fact, he proposes it to us in a disconcerting and paradoxical language. He who loves himself is lost and he who abhors himself in this world will be saved for eternal life.
We must confess that listening to these words makes it difficult for us to understand them. Why does it seem that we condemn ourselves to love oneself, and why are we asked to hate ourselves to enter full life? What does the Lord mean? Jesus tells us that whoever uniquely and exclusively seeks his own “being well” selfishly, rather than doing good ruins his life. Isn’t that the experience of so many marriages ending in divorces or friendships that end in enmity because the selfish “I” has not been renounced with his whims and claims? On the other hand, he who is able to give up things, even legitimate or desirable, for a greater love for others, discovers with Jesus a more humane and full way of living, and if not, let us all remember our good parents. How many times did they get up in the early hours to attend to our baby crying, and how many times they deprived themselves of the little piece of chicken or steak to give to us, and so many other things that only God knows to make our lives healthier and happier. We thank God for them.
St Maximilian Maria Kolbe was a Polish Capuchin friar, who asked to take the place in the concentration camp of a father who had been sentenced to death. He, like Christ, gave up his life for that man, renounced himself, and found life in capital letters. St. Teresa of Calcutta, also renounting comforts and pleasant life, including the customs of her people, Albania, became a citizen of India, decided to live poor among the poor and give her life to the service of the poor, sharing with them love, closeness and tenderness. It is the saints who in history have shown the true face of Christ, the face of God; and in doing so, they have given the world light, joy and life.
You and I know a lot of people like that, parents, husbands, grandparents, children, and grandchildren who care lovingly at the rest of the family and their neighbors. We know bishops, priests, doctors, little girls, nurses, teachers, men and women of all professions and ages, who try with God’s help to love and do good. Every person who loves his neighbor, who abhors a selfish life and seeks to donate and share love, lets us see Jesus, shows him, allows us to know him in depth. Will you and I also be willing to let others see Christ in our lives? That would be the greatest fruit of a good Easter.
Let us now pray for our people and for the whole world. At the end of the pandemic, by scientists struggling to find a remedy for it, for vaccination programs in Cuba and the world. Let us pray for the rulers to seek the common good and peace and justice. Let us pray for marriages, that they may be faithful to their mutual love and for those who are waiting for a child, that he may be born in health and bring joy to the home. Let us pray for the sick, the imprisoned, the suffering, and those who are far from the homeland. Let us pray that we do not tire of loving, so that all Cubans may always treat each other with love and respect. We do it together with the Lord’s prayer.
(Our Father’s Prayer)
Now we do spiritual communion…
Last Friday, March 19, with the feast of Saint Joseph, patron saint of the Universal Church, Pope Francis inaugurated a family year. May the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph protect, bless and protect all families in Cuba and the world. We ask the Lord through the intercession of Our Lady of Charity.
“God save you Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed art thou among all women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” Amen.
Cardinal Juan de la Caridad García: We listen to the Pope:
“Every day, for more than 40 years, after the laudes, I repeat this prayer to St Joseph, taken from a 19th-century French devotion book, from the congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary, which expresses devotion, trust and a certain challenge to St Joseph.
“Glorious Patriarch Joseph, whose power knows how to make things impossible possible, see in my aid in these moments of anguish and difficulty.
“Take under your protection the situations so serious and difficult that it confided in you so that they have a good solution.
“My beloved Father, all my trust is placed in you. Let it not be said that I have invoked you in vain and, as you can do everything with Jesus and Mary, show me that your goodness is as great as your power.”
Father Ariel Suarez: And now we ask the Cardinal Archbishop of Havana, Archbishop Juan de la Caridad García, to give us all God’s blessing.
Cardinal John of Charity: We bow our heads to receive the blessing. At the end of each invocation we pray amen.
“The God, Father of mercy, in the Passion of his Son has given us an example of love, grant them for their dedication to God and to men the best of their blessings.”
“And that thanks to the temporal death of Christ, who drove eternal death away from you, obtain the gift of an endless life.”
And so, imitating his example of humility, participate one day in his glorious Resurrection.”
“And the blessing of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost descend upon you, upon your families, upon the sick, and remain forever.”
Below we fully offer the address of Msgr. Ramón Suárez Polcari, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Havana.